In a study conducted by the University of Virginia’s Claire Cameron Ponitz and Oregon State University’s Megan McClelland, the researchers found that kindergarteners who had high levels of "self-regulation" in the fall did better on tests of reading, vocabulary, and math in the spring when compared to children with low levels of self-regulation.
What is self-regulation? According to Dr. Ponitz, self-regulation is the ability to control and direct one’s own feelings, thoughts, and actions. It can be as simple as a child raising his hand when asking a question in class, or as complex as a child controlling her feelings when frustrated or angry. “Self-regulation underlies our daily decisions and long-term behavioral tendencies,” Ponitz says. “When people make poor choices - for example about health, school, work, or relationships, it is usually because of a failure of self-regulation. With regard to early development, children who learn to control themselves and make good choices do better socially and academically than children who are overly angry, aggressive or impulsive.”
While the ability to self-regulate has long been considered an essential part of a child’s healthy emotional development, self-regulation is increasingly being seen as a good predictor of a child’s academic success. According to Dr. McClelland, a number of studies have found that self-regulation significantly predicts literacy outcomes in children. In their own research, McClelland and Ponitz found that aspects of self-regulation not only predicted literacy outcomes in preschool and elementary school, but also predicted the gains in literacy children made during that time. In specific, they found that children who showed improvement on a simple task designed to measure self-regulation skills also showed improvement in emergent literacy, vocabulary, and early mathematics skills. “We think it's because the skills in the task-- remembering instructions, stopping yourself, and paying attention-- are also important in school,” Ponitz says.
Good self-regulation skills are also important for a child’s social development. “Self-regulation helps children succeed in classroom contexts,” McClelland says. “The children who can successfully navigate these learning environments have better relationships with their teachers, are more liked by their classmates, and do better academically. They are also more motivated to achieve because of these skills.”
Both Ponitz and McClelland believe parents and teachers play a crucial role in the development of their children’s self-regulation. “Parents and teachers are critically important guides and models for children as they learn how to control themselves,” Ponitz says. “At home and in the classroom, providing organization, consistency, and structure seem to be important predictors of children's self-regulation. For example, following through with rules provides children the chance to practice controlling themselves.”
McClelland agrees that self-regulation is a learned skill. “There is a lot of evidence to suggest that self-regulation can be taught in children.” As an example she points to an intervention aimed at improving self-regulation in preschoolers. “In one recent study,” she says, “we found that a series of classroom games in preschool designed to help children practice paying attention, remembering instructions, and demonstrating self-control significantly improved self-regulation skills, especially for children with low self-regulation.”
The good news for parents and educators is that easy ways to help children develop self-regulation skills may be as close as the local playground. Both Ponitz and McClelland suggest that classic games where children must follow directions and wait to take turns may be be particularly suited for the development of self-regulation. Specifically, they recommend: Red Light, Green Light; Simon Says; Hide n’ Seek; and Role Playing.
To make the games even more challenging, McClelland recommends adding rules that require children to pay attention, remember new instructions, and do the opposite of what they are used to. For instance, instead of having children follow commands when a person says “Simon says...” do the opposite and have them follow commands when the phrase isn’t used. Be creative! As research increasingly shows, simple games can be more than mere child’s play when it comes to helping children develop valuable skills that will serve them well later in life.
1. Unplug: Disconnect from Technology and Explore Nature
Pick one day during the week to go technology-free. No cell
phones, social media, TV, video games or email. It’s a great opportunity to be
more present with your child and have a shared experience that involves mindful
sensing in the great outdoors. (If you can’t unplug for a whole day, try it for
a few hours).
Have you noticed how many moms are on their cellphones when they’re at the park with their kids? Goldie reminds us how important it is to focus on your loved ones when you’re with them, “When playing with your children at the park or the beach, be with them, not on your cellphone. They need your undivided attention.”
Children who get more “vitamin G”—what experts call time spent in green spaces—have lower stress levels. Outdoor experiences promote cognitive development and are often linked to heightened imagination, curiosity, and a sense of wonder. Go on a nature walk together: smell the grass, listen to the birds, collect leaves.
2. Gratitude: Start a Family Gratitude Journal
The science behind gratitude is nothing short of amazing and shows us that by expressing what we are grateful for, we can rewire our brains to seek the positive. Gratitude works like a muscle: as you become more aware of all the good around you, feelings of appreciation will increase. This positive outlook will help kids cope better with the barrage of negative messaging present in society today.
Shawn Achor, leading happiness researcher and author of “The Happiness Advantage”, says writing down three new things that you are grateful for each day for 21 days in a row helps create a positive habit. His research shows this activity significantly improves kids’ optimism even six months later, and increases their success in school too.
The simplest way for children to adopt an attitude of gratitude is to create a family gratitude journal. “While gathered around the table for a meal, each family member can express one thing they are grateful for,” says elementary school teacher and certified MindUP™ trainer Janice Parry. “Following the meal, each person can record their idea in a journal for everyone to reflect on. Have the younger kids decorate it and keep it as a family treasure.”
David Andrews, a high school educator and certified MindUP™ trainer, offers this idea for vacation travel: “During the car ride to the beach or an amusement park, families could take turns saying the things they are thankful for. Parents can point out the fact that they are lucky enough to even go on vacation, to give kids perspective.”
3. Acts of Kindness and Service: Do Something Nice for Others
Being kind stimulates a release of dopamine called the “helper’s high”. When children are serving others it helps them develop compassion, empathy, and perspective.
Goldie says practicing kindness with your kids is also a great bonding experience, “Visit or call an elderly relative, write a letter to someone you love, or serve the hungry at your place of worship or a soup kitchen.”
Start a family discussion about what kind of service acts you can do together over the break. Here are some suggestions: Rake the leaves out of a neighbor’s yard, bake treats and deliver them to someone who lives alone, read to little ones at the library, make someone laugh, open the door for a stranger, pay someone a compliment.
“My experience is, kids feel good when they engage in a service project,” Andrews adds. “It doesn’t have to be huge, and things like picking up litter can be done even while in vacation spots.”
Some other great ideas: Help your child organize a canned food drive in your neighborhood, then deliver the items to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Help your child clean out their toys, clothes, and books and donate the items to Goodwill or a local hospital. Talk to your kids about how these acts of kindness will bring joy to less fortunate children and themselves, as well.
4. Breathe: Take a MindUP™ “Brain Break”
Research proves that there are extraordinary neurobiological benefits to deep, focused breathing. It quiets the mind and reduces stress, which helps kids improve their concentration, and to be in the moment which promotes greater happiness.
“Children benefit from simply stopping for a moment and focusing on their breathing,” Goldie says. “Try starting your morning off with your child by taking 10 deep breaths together.”
As part of the MindUP ™ curriculum taught in schools worldwide, students take “brain breaks” or “mindful breathing breaks” three times a day to calm them down and allow them to focus better. “It’s not anything magical,” Goldie says. “It’s all biological and neurological. So as a family, just take a break and take a breath.”
Educator Parry shares this story about a class field trip to an animal farm: “We gathered on the grass and sat quietly breathing as a group, with the sounds of honking geese and quacking ducks in the background. This very simple activity resonated with the students for weeks following the trip. It was amazing!”
5. Sensory Stimulation: Mindful Tasting, Seeing, and Smelling
Focusing on the specifics of something you see, eat or smell helps children strengthen critical neural pathways, and learn to concentrate more effectively.
Education specialist Rebecca Fishman Lipsey suggests having a mindful tasting experience: “This could be done during a family meal, or through a ‘food tasting’ activity at a destination you’re exploring. Encourage your kids to select a food item, look at it, smell it, imagine what it might taste like, hold it between their teeth, place it on the tongue, and eventually savor the food. It’s a really fun exercise!”
MindUP™ trainer Michelle Purcell suggests doing a mindful tasting exercise with a variety of oranges: navels, mandarins, tangelos and clementines. “Really experience the different taste of each one,” Purcell says. “Children can close their eyes and do the mindful tasting of each variety, then talk about the differences and similarities between them.” You can also do this using different fruits to compare. This builds kids’ language and descriptive skills, as well as focused attention and mindful behavior.
Teacher and certified MindUP™ trainer Jen Erickson suggests this simple but effective mindful seeing exercise: “When out in nature, have your child choose an object such as a seashell, a flower or an insect or anything else they may have never seen before. Ask your child to look at the object as if he or she had never seen it before. Spend time quietly observing it while bringing attention to the color, shape, size, texture, and movement.”
These are just a handful of suggestions for parents to consider doing with their kids during break. For additional ideas on what parents can do to infuse these principles into their family life, check out “10 Mindful Minutes” by Goldie Hawn, which can be purchased at http://thehawnfoundation.org/mindup/mindup-products/goldie-hawns-10-mindful-minutes/
How do I help my child handle disappointment?
by Dr. Becky Bailey
Disappointment is a difficult emotion to handle. All parents ultimately want children to be good sportsmen, take responsibility for their actions rather than blaming others, and be able to stand tall after their falls in life (both literal and metaphoric). Here are some essential guidelines to help children with this type of pain:
First, your goal must be to help them deal with the emotion, not “happy them up.” “Happying them up” comes in many forms. It could be a distraction, a promise to buy a toy or taking them out for ice cream. This attempt to take away the pain can lead (in many years) to adults who unconsciously graze through the refrigerator or use shopping sprees to deal with disappointment.
Instead, we can provide empathy to help ease their pain and teach them that they can handle all that life brings to them.
“You seem _____________.” (Put your best guess of the feeling in the blank… disappointed, frustrated, sad, etc.) If you guess their emotion correctly, their body will relax. If you guess incorrectly, they will tense up, pull away or correct you. If this happens, simply try to describe the feeling again.
“You were hoping ______________” or “You wanted____________.” Describe the disappointment or hurt.
“It’s hard when ___________________.” Validate their feelings.
“You can handle it.” Offer assurance.
“Breathe with me.” Take a deep breath together, and then physically connect in some way.
Example: A child does not make a football team.
“You seem disappointed. You were hoping to make the team with your friends. You wanted this more than anything. It’s hard when things turn out differently than you wanted. You can handle this. Let’s take some deep breaths together.” Then hug or hold your child.
Dr. Bailey has a video on YouTube that explains how empathy helps children take responsibility for their upset in a compassionate, healthy way. https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=P56f8v -DRTY
Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Dr. Bailey provides extensive information about ways to offer and benefits of empathy.
When you first talk with your child about bullying, be prepared to listen without judgment, and provide a safe and supportive place where your child can work out his or her feelings. Children may not be ready to open up right away as they, too, are dealing with the emotional effects of bullying and may be feeling insecure, frightened, vulnerable, angry, or sad. When your child begins to tell their story, just listen and avoid making judgmental comments. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the situation, such as how long the behavior has been happening, who has been involved, and what steps have been taken. Encourage your child to talk, and let them know they are not alone and you are there to help.
Make sure your child knows:
The challenge for parents is ensuring that children learn to accept and respect differences, thus making them more productive adults. But, where do we start? Children don't come with instructions, but they do come with open minds. Much of what they learn about respecting differences comes from their parents. That being said, consider the following suggestions:
Start with us. Children listen to what we say as well as watch what we do. So as parents, we must deal with our own diversity deficits, so that we can lead by not just saying but also by doing. For example, one parent tells her children not to judge people by their color. The family lives in a majority white community and the children have had very limited interactions with blacks.
However, her children hear her telling friends that the blacks with whom she works are so lazy that she has to do their job and her job. If we are to teach our children to make decisions that are not based on stereotypes, then we must do the same. In this example, the people may in fact have been lazy. However, it is not their blackness that makes them lazy - they are just lazy. "Do as I say but not as I do" does not help children become more accepting of differences.
Get out of our comfort zone. For all the talk about diversity, Americans still segregate ourselves into fairly homogenous communities. Teaching our children to accept differences may require that we use the power of the internet to learn about differences, that we seek out cultural activities that are out of our community and explore the strength and value in diversity. It is not enough to simply visit cultural events, eat ethnic foods and thus learn about differences from a voyeuristic point of view. Instead, we must make a deliberate effort to get out of the familiar and show our children we mean it. Accepting differences should be how we live our lives.
Listen and respond. When children ask about differences, start by listening to the question they are asking and the language they are using. If in asking questions about differences they are using hurtful or stereotypical language, explore with them why such language is hurtful. Explain in an age-appropriate manner why stereotypes don't tell the whole story and are divisive.
Don't be blind to differences. Parents often tell me that they want their children to be "difference blind." This is both unrealistic and misses the point. Children will notice that Jouain has a different sounding name or that Yasmeen always wears a head scarf to school, or that Rajiv eats foods that look and smell different from what they eat. They will have a natural curiosity about this. As parents, we must help them appreciate and learn about those differences, not pretend that they do not exist. The question is not whether differences exist; it is what message we are sending by teaching children to be "blind" to differences. Unless we as parents are willing to help explain to children what seems strange or different to them, we will never be successful in teaching children to understand and appreciate differences.
Avoid political correctness. Parents who teach children to be politically correct when interacting with differences are making the situation worse. Rather than teach children the correct labels or names for people, let's teach them that differences are only a part of who we are. It is not the total of who we are.
Parents teach children how to brush their teeth, to comb their hair, to be responsible and to be successful. We do so by introducing and reinforcing behavior that helps achieve these goals. We should do the same when it comes to appreciating diversity. It is only then that we can move from tolerance to acceptance.
What Adults Need to Know About Personal Safety for Children by Irene van der Zande
1. Personal safety means keeping your feelings and body safe if people act thoughtless, mean, scary, or dangerous.
Personal safety means being in charge of yourself so that you act safely towards others.
2. Violence against young people is a leading health issue of our time.
A study about violence against children entitled “Children’s Violence: A Comprehensive National Study” was released by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009. According to the study director and director of the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, David Finkelhor, Pd.D., “Children experience far more violence, abuse and crime than do adults. If life were this dangerous for ordinary grown-ups, we’d never tolerate it.” The study found that over 60% of the children surveyed were exposed either directly or indirectly to some form of violence in the last year.
3. Most of the people who harm children are NOT strangers.
According to the National Victims Center, 95% of sexual abuse happens with people children know. Of these, one third are family members – stepparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, grandparents and parents. Two thirds are other people known to the child – neighbors, youth group leaders, teachers, other children, religious leaders and friends. Experts estimate that one in three girls and one in four boys will be sexually abused before they are eighteen years old.
4. Molesters will often spend up to a year cultivating a trusting relationship with a family, a school, a religious community, or a group of friends before they make their first move.
They will often start by systematically creating an emotional connection with a child, pushing the child’s boundaries and ensuring that the child won’t tell before they do anything that is sexual. This means that children who have skills for setting boundaries and getting help are less likely to be targeted by a molester.
5. Federal agencies estimate that there are 100,000 attempted abductions by strangers each year in the United States. About 2,000 children a year are kidnapped by strangers.
Although this is important for adults to know, it is not healthy for children to believe that the world is full of dangerous people called “strangers.” Instead adults can tell children that most people are good but, if we do not know them well, there are safety rules to follow.
6. One out of seven school children have either been victimized by bullying or have bullied others.
Most children have witnessed bullying. Bullying is harmful. Adults are responsible for noticing all forms of bullying and for taking action to make it against the rules.
7. Just telling children about the bad things that might happen makes them anxious.
Coaching children so they can be successful in actually practicing skills helps them to become more confident and capable.
8. Young children are very literal, and we need to be sure that they understand what we mean.
Telling children, “Never talk to a stranger” is untrue because we ask them to greet people they see as strangers all the time. Telling children, “Never let anyone touch your private areas” is also untrue because it is normal for adults to pat children, pick them up, and help them stay clean and healthy. This is why Kidpower focuses on using language that is clear, truthful, consistent, and positive.
9. Adults need to provide ongoing supervision to ensure the safety of the children in their lives and to keep LISTENING to children.
However, it is also important that children learn how to protect themselves by knowing their safety rules and following their safety plans. Most kidnappings can be prevented if children are able to be aware, move away from someone they don’t know, and check first with their adult. Most sexual abuse and most bullying can be prevented if children can set personal boundaries and be ask for help. Most assaults can be stopped if children yell and run to safety when they are scared.
10. Kidpower brings self protection and confidence to people of all ages and abilities.
Workshops can prepare adults to help children learn how to use their own power to stay safe. For more information, visit the web page at www.kidpower.org
In May, our school counseling program is focusing on College and Career Readiness. That means that all Nottingham Knights will learn about postsecondary opportunities and careers in their classroom lessons with the counselors. Elementary school is the perfect time for kids to start learning about careers because we know that children perform better in school if they understand how education affects their futures.
In elementary school, school counselors focus on career awareness and personal exploration. We help students:
o Understand the connection between school and the world of work
o Discover the broad range of occupations available
o Connect the learning in school to situations in the real world
o Start to picture themselves as workers
o Develop their work-readiness skills, or the “soft skills”, that all jobs require like working in groups, organizational skills, problem solving, and leadership
At Nottingham, our Kindergarteners learn about workers in our school. First grade Knights explore the tools associated with a variety of occupations. Second graders delve into the six career paths. In third grade, students revisit the six career paths and make connections between play, school, and careers. Fourth graders learn about jobs long ago, jobs today, and jobs of the future. Fifth grade Knights explore their personal strengths and career goals.
Parents can help their children learn about a variety of careers and how their educations connect with future jobs. For example, you can talk about how veterinarians use math to calculate the amount of medicine animals need, fire fighters need to be good at working in groups, and video game designers must have good writing skills and the ability to accept constructive feedback. More tips from America’s Career Resource Network are below (http://acrn.ovae.org/parents/careeraware.htm).
How to Talk to Your Child about Careers
Relate your child's interests to adult activities. For example:
Children enrolled in elementary school can usually handle around two to four activities per week depending on the child. You may be able to find a variety of activities to choose from, depending on your child's interests. Below is a list of some extracurricular activities for elementary students.